LONG-TERM PARTNERS

Kazakhstan 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Béla Ferenczi, CEO of GE Central Asia & Azerbaijan, on GE's historic relations with the country and the development of its infrastructure across a number of sectors.

Béla Ferenczi
BIOGRAPHY
Béla Ferenczi is CEO of GE Central Asia & Azerbaijan and is leading all of the company’s business operations and the execution of its growth strategy in the region. Ferenczi has 25 years of finance and general management experience. He joined GE in 2006, holding a series of leadership roles in the company’s power and water businesses and the global growth organization. In 2016, he was appointed GE’s senior leader in Central Asia. Ferenczi holds a BA in economics from Plekhanov Russian University of Economics and an MBA in finance strategy from the Open University in the UK.

Can you give us some background on GE's operations in Kazakhstan and how your international expertise is helping localize advanced technologies?

GE has been working in Kazakhstan since the middle of the last century—our first sale was in 1930 for the mining industry. Today, we are proud to be active in nearly every industry with our broad technology portfolio. For example, GE engines are powering hundreds of KTZ locomotives and dozens of airplanes operated by Air Astana and other airlines. In addition, thousands of units of GE equipment are supporting the oil and gas and healthcare industries in Kazakhstan. Our overall approach is long-term partnership with the government and the country's leading companies on key projects to modernize industrial infrastructure. Our biggest localization success so far has been our partnership with KTZ. In 2009, the first GE-powered locomotive made in Kazakhstan rolled off the assembly line and onto the rails. To date, we have helped produce and modernize over 700 locomotives. Today, about 90% of freight locomotives in Kazakhstan are powered by GE engines, with much higher efficiency and lower emissions than the legacy fleet, and as a result, Kazakhstan has the youngest and the most fuel-efficient locomotive fleet in the CIS region. We continue to supply the engine kit, but everything else is locally produced. This project was destined to success thanks to the perfect alignment between GE's long-term commitment and the country's strategic priority to develop the non-resource sectors of the economy, as well as its vast geography and rail network, which is quite similar to other large countries like the US, China, or Russia. In fact, Kazakhstan is GE's second-largest rail market globally and our largest hub of locomotive production outside of the US.

What other partnerships and programs do you have beyond the rail industry?

In addition to working with KTZ, we are also localizing oil and gas equipment servicing by teaming up with our local partner ZKMK. That project includes a long-term technology transfer and license agreement, which will enable ZKMK to locally maintain the fleet of GE Oil & Gas turbines and compressors installed across Kazakhstan and Central Asia. That is an important capability because it gives our customers confidence in knowing that potential issues can be resolved quickly with local resources. It also demonstrates GE's commitment to developing human talent by localizing technical expertise. We have had great success with this same approach in healthcare. In 2007, we localized expertise in maintaining medical equipment by establishing a service center in Almaty. That has supported the growth of our installed base to over 2,000 ultrasounds, MRIs, PET/CTs, and other high-tech equipment at hospitals and clinics across the country. In addition, we are also offering our Crotonville leadership training as part of our strategic cooperation with Nazarbayev University. GE is recognized as one of the world's top companies for professional development, and we are committed to helping train the next generation of leaders in Kazakhstan

What are your expectations for the coming year?

The current environment remains complicated and industrial growth around the world continues to be constrained by limited investment. At the same time, we are beginning to see positive signs on the horizon. The last three or four years have shown us that resource-rich countries can no longer rely on high commodity prices—they need to learn to adapt and live in a new environment. The president and government of Kazakhstan have taken steps to lay a solid foundation for future growth. I live and work in Astana and every day I see the great potential here. I am an optimist about the long term, and I am looking forward to what the new year will bring.